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Eight women gather around a table, sipping wine and seltzer water, chatting about their latest food adventures, while nibbling on top-quality Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese and Kalamata olives. Is it the prelude to a long-standing suburban book club’s monthly meeting? No, it’s the final judging of the Whole Grains Council’s Make the Switch recipe contest.

Throughout September, to celebrate Whole Grains Month, we invited people across the country to visit the WGC website and view a group of sixteen whole grain recipes created by leading bloggers and dietitians. The dishes, which ranged from soups and salads to casseroles and comfort food, had been specially crafted to inspire everyone, everywhere, to make the switch to whole grains.

For thirty days, people tried out the recipes (or simply drooled over them!) and voted for their favorites, elevating five of the recipes to the status of finalists in our contest. The five finalists were: Spiced Ginger Citrus Millet, Apple Pie Smoothie, Wild Rice and Fall Fruit Salad, Ratatouille Quinoa, and Corn Chowder with Wild Rice. Now it was time to cook these five recipes, and pick the ultimate winners.

The cook-off was masterminded by Janice Newell Bissex, of the Meal-Makeover Moms. Janice was the logical choice to head up this part of the contest not only because she’s a registered dietitian and seasoned recipe developer, but also because she has an amazing professional-grade kitchen where she regularly shoots videos for her business. (Not to mention she is the ultimate hostess!)

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Even the pros are challenged with five recipes to prepare in a single afternoon, however, so Kelly Toups (left above) and Mallory Cushman (right above), WGC Program Managers, stepped up as sous-chefs, chopping and sautéing under Janice’s oversight. By the time Oldways Communication Manager Rachel Greenstein (center, above) and our other judges arrived, delicious smells met us at the door of Janice’s house.

Let the judging begin! Our panel of five judges included me, Janice, Kyle Potvin of Splash Communications (media consultants to Oldways) and two additional celebrity judges: Mary Ann Esposito, beloved host of PBS’s longest-running food show, Ciao Italia, and Maria Speck, culinary expert and author of the award-winning book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.


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Judges, L to R: Maria Speck, Kyle Potvin, Mary Ann Esposito, Janice Bissex, Cynthia Harriman

We tasted our way through all five recipes, and rated them on three qualities (creative use of whole grains, ease of preparation, and taste, as per the contest rules) with input from our cooking team on any unclear or difficult cooking instructions. The decisions were difficult, and our judges took their roles seriously, carefully considering each dish in turn.  “Love the crunch of the hazelnuts…” “The texture isn’t quite what I expected…” “Nice balance of flavors between the grains and vegetables…” “Lots of flavor, without being heavy…” Mary Ann and Maria were especially generous in sharing their experience with foods and flavors in other cultures.

Such decisions are never easy, but in the end we are delighted to announce our three prize winners:

These three weren’t the only winners. We also picked one of our voters at random, to win $500 and a Virtual Gift Basket of whole grain foods. Congratulations to Danielle Liszka of Oxford, OH – a nutrition student at Miami University.

At the end of the day, everyone who switches to whole grain is a winner, because of the proven health benefits of whole grains. We hope everyone enjoyed our Whole Grains Month contest and we thank our three sponsors – Bob’s Red Mill, ArnoldBrownberry / Oroweat bread, and Gen-Ji-Mai rice – for helping to make this contest possible.

-Cynthia
 


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